Thursday, June 14, 2012

It must be me


The Communications Data Bill

Extracted from Big Brother Watch

Let’s bust some myths.

Right now – without any new powers – the police and security services can read your emails, tap your phone, plant hidden cameras and microphones in your house and intercept your internet use. All of which can be done without any approval of a judge.

Since 2005, there have been more than 2.7 million requests by police and other public bodies for the communications data belonging to private individuals. Of these, fewer than 10,000 requests have come from local authorities. Oh, and none of those requests were authorised by a judge. For the Home Office to rush out an announcement that local councils will lose their snooping powers is nothing short of deliberate misdirection.

Aside from the blatant spin of announcing unprecedented spying powers during the PM’s testimony to the Leveson enquiry, the Home Office is trying to hide an unprecedented level of surveillance of the entire population behind a miniscule concession of removing the ability to access Communications Data from local councils.

This policy goes against the Coalition Agreement, against Conservative pre-election policy and is fundamentally an illiberal, intrusive boondoggle that will do little to improve national security and do everything to turn us into a nation of suspects.

Before the election, the Prime Minister said that “If we want to stop the state controlling us, we must confront this surveillance state.”

He was absolutely right.

I can live with the u-turns on pasties, caravans and charities because I happen to think that a good Government does actually need to react to issues raised by its policies but this isn't a u-turn it's a complete change in policy. For thirteen years we had stories of CCTV cameras on High Streets, microchips in wheelie bins and councils spying on taxpayers all of which were condemned by those, particularly those on the right, who oppose the 'surveillance state' and then we have this.

One thing that does strike me about the new legislation, ignoring the ridiculous cost to the taxpayer of course, is that it really does seem to have been ill conceived in the first place. Sex offenders don't use Google to search for kiddie porn do they, fraudsters don't use a search engine to obtain information that they need to commit their crimes and I'm quite sure that the only time terrorists use the internet is to spread their message. Isn't the whole point of crime that it is covert in the first place, if it was all out in the open then crime detection figures and conviction figures would be much higher than the pathetic level they are in the U.K. Isn't GCHQ supposed to be the number one place for electronic surveillance? What exactly does criminal intelligence mean?

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